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Buffalo School District address failing schools

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

The Buffalo Public School District has an August 12th deadline set by the state Education Department to make changes at two failing city high schools.

A special meeting was held by the District late Thursday afternoon after meeting earlier in the day with state educations officials. 

The District must decide plans for East and Lafayette High Schools.  The Education Department has issued options. It could include some sort of management by the suburban BOCES program.

The school board has scheduled meetings Monday and Wednesday with anyone connected with the two-high schools to talk about what might be in the plans.

More than a thousand-students have applied for state-mandated transfers from the failing schools and the district has yet to announce its plan for where those students will go.

There are no visible options in good schools and the district has to decide what to do. 

Board members and district administrators were told by Albany they must have a plan approved by August 12 for BOCES to have near-control of failing East and Lafayette High Schools.

Student Achievement Vice President Theresa Harris-Tigg says there is a serious problem.

"Our children are in a crisis. We are not acting like they are in a burning building, acting like we can really think about this. They are in a burning building. We've got to get our kids out of there. The commissioner is talking about total high-quality programs. And, that's all we're talking about. High quality programs and the commissioner is adding BOCES," said Harris-Tigg.

Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold says there will be public meetings next week in the two-high schools and a plan ready for approval and shipment to Albany July 31.

Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
Buffalo School Board president Barbara Seals Nevergold.

There will be a series of reports between now and then to Albany on how the planning is going. Schools Superintendent Pamela Johnson says there has been some progress.

"There is progress. That has been demonstrated this past school year. The preliminary graduation rates are higher than they were after August in the previous year, higher attendance rates, lower suspension rates. So, we're moving in the right direction. And, this is an opportunity for students to have additional CTE courses," said Brown.

As Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore pointed out, a lot of that progress comes from Johns Hopkins University, already working with the schools. and it's not clear if that university will be around any longer.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.